Borges and Mexican Politics

John Washington in The Smart Set:

JO_WASHI_ALEPH_FT_001A few days after the birthday of our seventh billion neighbor, in the season in which the Mexican “war” on drugs claimed (at least) its 50,000th victim, after a month of 1,045 deaths and the day previous which claimed 29 bodies across Mexico, the Day of the Dead celebration this years seems, like every year, especially significant for its death celebration. This past November 2, for the Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) fourth consecutive Day of the Dead’s megaoferta (giant death memorial), the theme was the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges, specifically his short story “The Aleph.”

“The Aleph” is narrated by the character Jorge Luis Borges who, after two epigraphs and a involuted esoteric backstory about the death of one Beatriz Viterbo, is basically dared into looking into a point of space (the eponymous Aleph), which is only about two or three centimeters in diameter but which contains the entire universe. The point that contains all points, including itself. And when the character Borges look into it, he sees, among other things: “the populous sea, the dawn and the dusk, the crowds of America, a silver cobweb in the center of a black pyramid, a broken labyrinth (which was London), interminable eyes scrutinizing me as if in a mirror, all the mirrors of the world… snow, tobacco, veins of metal, convex equatorial deserts and each of their grains of sand, water vapor, ” et cetera, et cetera…ad infinitum.

Walking through the maze of offerings and papier-mâché sculptures of Borges — his books, skeletons, tombstones, tigers tearing through coins and horses birthing out of giant tomes — one wonders why the theme this year is the Aleph. Why this metaphor instead of some of Borges’ other favorites like the Zahir, blindness, the tiger, the coin, or even the metaphor of Death itself?

More here.